What is more stressful — planning a wedding or renovating a 125-year-old church? How about doing both at the same time? That’s exactly what Catherine and Bill Ma did back in 2019 when they transformed a historic church into an elegant event venue, while helping their son, Brandon and his fiancé, Katrina plan their wedding — which was set to be the first event in the new space. Talk about pressure!
This is an incredible accomplishment — to say the least! Once I learned of this, my curiosity was piqued! So, I met with Catherine to hear the story from a mother’s perspective — very fitting for the month of May.
L: Tell me about your relationship with your kids.
C: Both our children are the most important thing in our lives — since they were born, everything we have done was for them. This included relocating the family from Thunder Bay to Campbellford, Ontario when Brandon was 3 and our daughter, Jasmin, was 5.
We felt the small-town environment was a great place for raising kids and that proved to be true. It was one of the best decisions we have made.
We always made sure to travel with our kids, expose them to bigger centres, cultural events etc. Our annual vacations were special times and we really got to know our kids during those trips. They’ve always been very comfortable talking to us. Even in their teen years we had a close connection and open communication.
L: How did you feel when they left the nest?
C: We were lucky in that both our kids went to nearby Queen’s University — so we could easily visit on weekends. Even in their University days, they liked having their parents visit! We got to know their friends and be part of their lives. Often, we would take meals when we visited for the kids and their friends. One Thanksgiving we brought a prime rib roast, a turkey and all the fixings for the kids and their friends that were unable to go home for the holiday. We were a hit that weekend!!
L: Now that they are adults, are you still close?
C: Absolutely! Brandon and his wife Katrina are living in Ottawa, so we get to visit them often. They are always very inviting and happy to see us. Jasmin and her fiancé, Dylan are in Vancouver, so we don’t see them as much, but we talk all the time. I’m very proud of them both!
L: Prior to meeting their fiancés, did your kids talk about getting married?
C: Yes, they did and that started in their early twenties — here and there, not all the time of course. Sometimes the conversation would stray to ‘Where would you get married in Trent Hills?’ Our kids want a classic elegant setting for their weddings and there really wasn’t anything like that in our immediate area. In hindsight, this planted the seed for our later decision to purchase a historic church and transform it into The Grand Maple Event Centre.
L: Tell me about the early days of the Grand Maple?
C: We recognized a gap in the local area in terms of indoor event venues. So, when St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church — built in 1897 — came on the market, we had to check it out. As soon as we walked in, we knew we had found the right place — it was a strong feeling for both of us. We moved quickly and bought the church in September of 2017.
L: What were your goals with the renovation?
C: Our goal has always been to preserve the historical and unique architectural elements of the building, while making improvements and modern updates in order to create that perfect blend of past and present.
We started the transformation process in June of 2018 and planned to be finished in January of 2019. As often happens, the scope of the project was much larger than we had anticipated. As a result, the renovations took longer and were finished one week before Brandon and Katrina’s wedding in April of 2019. Talk about cutting it close!
L: Brandon and Katrina decided to get married at the Grand Maple – that must have been such an honour!
C: Yes, it sure was and we are thrilled that we were able to make that happen — although it was touch and go at a few points! Brandon and Katrina announced their engagement in the fall of 2018 after we had purchased the church. We were working on renos which were scheduled to be completed in January of 2019. Their wedding was planned for April of 2019, so it only made sense that it be held at the Grand Maple. After all, the renovations would be complete in January, giving us three months lead time before the wedding. What could possibly go wrong?
L: How did the renovation process go?
C: We knew it would be a lot of hard work and we were prepared for that. However, we weren’t prepared for some of the inevitable ‘surprises’ that come with renovating a century old building that can really delay a project. There were also other delays with materials and permits etc. It ended up taking us three months longer than we had projected.
By early March we were in a panic! The wedding was only one month away, and we still had a lot of work to do. That last month was a blur, we worked long days and well into the night. Brandon and Katrina came every weekend to help with painting and other tasks. Jasmin and Dylan also flew in from Vancouver early to help with final details. We really pitched in as a family. The poor bride, Katrina, must have been so stressed out wondering if we would be ready in time! Her family was great, they planned everything else while we focused on the building.
Finally, just one week before the wedding, we completed the renovations and had our final inspection! We were relieved to say the least!
L: That is stressful indeed! But you pulled it off, tell me about the wedding day.
C: We were exhausted from the months of hard work and sleepless nights, but we had such a sense of pride knowing that we did it and our son’s wedding was to be the first event in the venue. Our family and our close friends ordered us to enjoy the day. They took care of the little details while we focused on being ‘in the moment’. We did not worry about unfinished details or anything that was less than perfect. Just simply take in the joy of the day and we did.
It was a perfect day — the weather was beautiful; the ceremony and reception went off without a hitch. We were overjoyed for Brandon and Katrina, as were all our close family and friends who attended.
There was such a feeling of triumph when Bill and I entered as Parents of the Groom in a venue we had created. We couldn’t have been prouder of our family and the strong work ethic we all carry.
The emcee jokingly commented, ‘Brandon was always spoiled by his parents, visiting during our university days with prime rib and turkey dinners! And now they built a venue for his wedding!”
Truthfully, we didn’t spoil our kids. We taught them to think for themselves and work hard to get what they want. We are incredibly proud of them and we hope nothing but the best for them.
Like raising our kids, the transformation of the Grand Maple was a true labour of love. We look forward to hosting weddings and having fun events when it is safe to do so.
For information or to arrange a virtual tour, please contact Bill or Catherine Ma at firstname.lastname@example.org or (705) 922-2106.
Or, for a sneak peek, view the Grand Maple video tour.